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Excused From Table Before Everyone Finished Eating

Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,

We have a three-year-old son who will take a few bites of food and then wants to leave the dinner table. We have asked him to please stay at the table until we are finished and he will not do it! He will ask, "may I be excused," and my husband and I are torn as to what we should do. We are glad that he is being polite in asking to be excused.

We were at a dinner party with him recently and it was quite embarrassing. Should we continue to ask him to stay at the table until everyone has finished or let him be excused?


In dire need of advice

Dear In dire need of advice,

It is considered good manners to stay at the table until everyone has finished eating, but it is a lot to ask of a three year old. Since he asks to be excused, you could allow him to leave the table as long as he stays within your eyesight and plays quietly.

However, it may be that your son is bored at the dinner table and is not being paid enough attention. Engage him while you dine and see if he stays longer at the table. Talk to your son about activities, books, and friends that he likes. You could also try increasing the time he stays at the table by saying he can leave after he eats, for example, three more bites of meat or after he finishes his milk.